SEATTLE, November 30, 2015 — There is no shortage of competition in the mid-sized performance sedan market and with its latest IS350, Lexus is hoping to have a big lure for customers. The IS350 has very sporty body lines which feed down into the “mouth” grill that all the Lexus cars are known for. It’s augmented with some great-looking dark charcoal wheels that all go to help this car look as good as it performs on the pavement.
Its double overhead cam, 3.5-liter engine puts out a respectable 306 horsepower at 6400rpm and 277 ft-lb of torque that kicks in at 4800rpm. It’s a gutsy engine that has a great growl to it, is rather responsive and seems to just “fit” this car very well. Lexus paired it with an 8-speed automatic transmission with shifter paddles on the steering column that does provide a good “manual mode”.
Stopping power is nearly sublime as the car comes to a screeching halt from freeway speeds nearly faster than you can blink. They feel as if they should be on a full-on sport’s car as they grab solid without being over bearing.
On paper, it could look a bit underpowered compared to the likes the Infinti Q50S but it develops peak torque at a slightly lower rpm which means you’ll feel it kick-in sooner. Additionally, our all-wheel-drive model feels as if it has more grip than a pit bull’s bite. Thanks to the rear-wheel bias, it still handles itself very well and that’s because the car’s design started as a rear-wheel drive sedan.
Where the IS350 really shines, however, is in its day to day driving and handling. There is really good sense of balance, poise, steering feel and cornering ability that add up to a very fulfilling driving experience. The first time you come up fast to a corner and realize that the car is nearly begging you to hit it hard – that’s when “that smile” you get lights up the face of those who love to drive. You’ll want to find open, windy roads, punch that accelerator and feel the way it eases through the corners.
Inside, there’s the rather typical Lexus goodness and attention to detail. From the stitched leather to a nice selection of other surface materials. Everything feels modern and a bit upscale. Front seats are very comfortable and offer great support, even on long drives.
For some odd reason, unbeknownst to us, Lexus still has the odd-to-use “glider” control for the infotainment system. This flat surface moves around to allow the driver to control the menu system, however, it’s definitely not the easiest to use way of navigating – I’ve read many complaints about it with not too many reviewers or consumers liking it very much. The main issue is that it just doesn’t “feel right” and seems to jump around the screen, often going to menus you didn’t intend to select.
With a bit of practice, however, one can mitigate it a bit but we’d sure like to see Lexus come up with a better system. Spoiler alert, we have a NX200 in-house to test and it uses a floating touchpad but still isn’t much better; stay tuned for the full review on that vehicle soon.
The audio system isn’t the Mark Levinson but still does a good job of pumping out the toons over a variety of connectivity options such as Bluetooth, CD (people still use these?), audio input jack, AM/FM/Satellite Radio and apps such as Pandora. Fidelity is well above average thanks to the high-powered multi-speaker sound system which includes a subwoofer.
Rear seat comfort is not bad but has the same leg room limitations most sedans have in this category segment. There’s plenty room for kids and younger teenagers but adults won’t want to ride back there too long.
Lexus backs this car with a basic 4-year / 50,000 mile warranty and a powertrain warranty that covers drivers on a 6-year / 60,000 mile warranty. If you ask us, and you should, that’s a rather shabby warranty from a brand renowned for its reliability. When you consider that there are competing cars offering 10-years / 100,000 mile warranties, we’d like to see Lexus revamp this.
At the end of the day, Lexus still has a world-class, world-beating sports sedan on its hand that greatly rewards those who truly love the fun of driving.